Spotlight on: Clothesmaking

For thousands of years, people have made clothes. However, they're something many people take for granted. We wear them for the vast majority of every single day, but we rarely stop and think about the effort that went into designing and making them.

In many cases, this is because we assume they come from an assembly line in a factory somewhere. However, this does not mean that work did not go into designing them, creating the patterns and assembling them. This can seem like an incomprehensible science at times, but actually it is a surprisingly easy and fun skill to learn.

Making your own clothes is something that a lot of people have looked into recently. Doing so does not necessarily mean you will be weaving elaborate evening gowns or three-piece suits in the future, but it can be a great hobby to have and you might end up being good enough to make yourself a few outfits!


Where do our clothes come from, and why do we continue to make our own?


So where does making clothes come from? Presumably it has a long history, as most people on Earth have been creating garments since before records began. This is definitely the case, but you may be surprised at how long ago this happened.

The first fabrics probably came into existence about 10,000 years ago, when people started weaving linen cloth out of flax fibres. Cotton was the next fabric to see common use, but people didn't start working with it until about 6,000 to 7,000 years ago. Silk came into use around this time as well, and wool was the latest arrival to the textile world about 1,000 years later.

So people were wearing clothes made from a variety of fabrics before inventions like writing. Quite quickly, different fashions can be seen across the world. Even just in western Europe, people beginning to adapt their outfits to fit their local climates can be seen.

The northern countries wore warm trousers and tunics, while in southerly Greece and Rome togas were popular because they were light and cool. Clothing developed rapidly from this point, with different fabrics being used and different designs being created, such as pantaloons and ruffs in the middle ages.

Clothes were made by hand up until the industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries, when textile factories began to spring up all over the country. Since then, creating your own garments is no longer seen as a vital skill, as the process is largely automated. However, it is still a very useful talent to have.


A new hobby?

One of the main reasons people are learning how to make clothes by hand is not because they would rather not wear anything made in a factory – although many might hold this opinion – but simply because it is a fun activity to learn. If you are looking to start a new hobby, this could be the one for you.

For a start, it allows you to use your creativity and develop your practical skills at the same time. You will also be left with something physical at the end of it that you can take home and wear. You can do it alone while watching television, but it is also an activity you can potentially do with friends as well.

Of course, there are practical benefits to it as well as recreational ones. While you might not have any particular desire to wear clothes you've made yourself in public, there are still a number of things that make this a very useful skill indeed.



For a start, it means you will never again have to throw away your clothes as soon as the smallest rip appears in them. You might think all you need to know is how to sew a button back onto a jacket, but in actuality being able to repair major damage can be very useful.

Some rips and tears are unfixable, of course, but many clothing disasters are very repairable. For example, you can easily sew a pocket back onto a shirt, or fix a rip in a skirt without it showing. Once you learn how to make clothes, you will find that basic needlework like this is easy!



A major trend at the moment is 'upcycling': making something new out of an item you would usually throw away. It is similar to recycling, but the idea is that you make something better than the original. It often leads to some amazing, imaginative things being created.

Most of the time, this is simply changing one item of clothing into another. You can turn an old t-shirt into a skirt, for example, or even a child's dress. If you are bored with any of your old clothes, you can give them a makeover and change their design – use your imagination!



Finally, being able to make clothes means you will never be short of something to wear at a costume party. You will be able to whip something up easily, while having fun doing so. Most fancy dress outfits are actually quite cheap and easy to make, so you will save money as well.

With Halloween coming up, this could be an incredibly useful talent to have. You can make your family their very own personalised costumes for trick or treating, which children will love; they will feel so special having a unique outfit different to all their friends'!

Kent Adult Education are running courses in your area on clothes and dressmaking at all levels, if you are interested in the hobby.

Book a Clothesmaking course today

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